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The Metele setback

The November 18 attack by Boko Haram terrorists on positions of the 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Guzamala Local Government Area of northern Borno State was a major setback that caused anguish and anxiety in this country. For weeks there were signs that insurgent attacks were on the increase and the Metele attack was only the culmination of that.

The Army was slow in giving details of the attack, which allowed rumours to take over. Several media outlets claimed that 44 soldiers were killed in the attack. This figure was later escalated to “more than 100.” When the army finally spoke on Thursday last week, its spokesman Brigadier Sani Usman said 23 of its men were killed and 31 others wounded during the Metele attack. Usman however added that between Nov. 2 and Nov. 17 the insurgents attacked troops’ positions at Kukawa, Ngoshe, Kareto and Gajiram. He said troops repelled those attacks but 16 soldiers were killed while 12 others were wounded. Together, these high casualty figures are a real source of concern and a confirmation indeed that insurgents have stepped up their attacks and are far from being routed, as the military and government have been saying in recent years.

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Many things quickly followed the Metele incident. The Chief of Army Staff’s Annual Conference, scheduled to take place in Benin, was moved to Maiduguri, nearer the source of action. President Muhammadu Buhari attended the conference last Wednesday. The Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Umar ibn Garbai El-Kanemi, did not mince words when the president visited him in his palace. He said Borno was still under siege by insurgents. He said nobody dared to move 10 kilometres out of Maiduguri without being attacked, and that farmers are being killed and kidnapped on their farms on a daily basis.

Two days later, Buhari was in N’djamena, capital of Chad, and attended a hastily convened meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, of which he is the chairman. Present at the meeting were President Idris Deby Itno of Chad, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic and Prime Minister of Cameroon Philemon Yang, who represented President Paul Biya.

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In the communique they issued at the end of the meeting, the Chad Basin leaders resolved to change the modus operandi, collaborate more and renew assault on all forms of terrorism and criminal acts until wholesome peace was restored to the region. Presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina later said Buhari rallied his colleagues from Chad, Niger Republic and Cameroon to a fresh onslaught against insurgents.

This is the minimum that is required at this time, a joint, multi-pronged, well-coordinated onslaught backed by air and naval power in the Lake Chad basin of the kind that was undertaken some years ago, and which for a time severely weakened Boko Haram and ISWA. The pace with which Operation Lafia Dole was being pursued visibly slackened in the past year. Many reports allege that the military is short of weapons of the right caliber, including APCs and tanks. If this is true, the Buhari administration must take the most urgent steps to procure these weapons from any available source. If Western countries are slow in providing these weapons, there are options in Russia, China, Ukraine and other countries.

We commiserate with the Army High Command and with the families of soldiers who paid the supreme price in the service of the Fatherland. Unnecessary losses of men and material must be avoided in future by amply supplying the military with the right caliber of weapons to end this war once and for all.

 


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